April 18, 2016

Gutierrez wins Employment Tribunal against Newcastle United

Last week, an employment tribunal found that former Newcastle United and Argentina midfielder Jonas Gutierrez, was dropped by Newcastle due to his cancer diagnosis.

The employment tribunal also found Newcastle guilty of making it impossible for Gutierrez to achieve the number of appearances required to trigger an extension to his contract.

 

In October 2013, Gutierrez, 32, underwent surgery to remove a tumour after he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Gutierrez claims that Newcastle considered him a ‘liability’ after his diagnosis and intentionally limited his number of games once he’d returned from cancer treatment to avoid the financial implications of the contract extension that would have been triggered had Gutierrez made 80 starts between 2011 and 2015.

Gutierrez claims that the club felt that after his diagnosis and subsequent treatment that he could not return to his previous standards of performance and would no longer be an asset to the club. Up to this point, Gutierrez had played over 190 games for Newcastle United and was a key first team player.

Gutierrez was suing Newcastle United for approximately £2m on the basis of disability discrimination and there will be a second hearing in due course to establish the value of compensation to be awarded.

According to the employment tribunal, they found Gutierrez to be a “credible and convincing witness” however they found much of the testimony to come from representatives of Newcastle United to be “contradictory and inconsistent”, “evasive and lacking credibility” and “vague”. Much of which was rejected by the tribunal.

One of the primary areas of concern for the employment tribunal was that before Gutierrez’s diagnosis and return from treatment he had been a main stay in the Newcastle United first however, after returning from the long hard road of testicular cancer recovery he was immediately ‘not part of Newcastle’s plans for next season’.

 

Martin Butterworth, representing Mr Gutierrez said that “The tribunal has made it clear that a Premier League football club owes the same duties to a disabled person as any other employer.”

What is clear from this trial is that Newcastle considered themselves above employment law and tried to manage Gutierrez out of the club by discriminating against him for his condition.

 

Could Newcastle have dealt with it better? Yes, of course they could. It would be interesting to see what their Employee Handbook says about this type of incident and I’d be very surprised if they don’t have a policy somewhere that covers this. What this does teach us is that no matter what role an employee had, they must be treated in line with the law or repercussions could be significant.

I think they will be for Newcastle”!

 

For more detail on the findings and Newcastle’s unconvincing evidence have a look here http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/36044285

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